Staff Sgt. Casey Grochowiak was as brave as he was fearless.
"We thought of him as a cat with nine lives," Bonsall resident Erik Grochowiak said.
Erik said his brother's death in Afghanistan is still unimaginable.
"We always figured he'd be the one grabbing a body off the battlefield trying to save it, not that it would be the other way around," Erik said.
The news came Monday evening.
Casey, who was an Army Ranger, was killed by a roadside bomb minutes after his convoy stopped to check out a suspicious-looking object in the road. Erik said Casey died doing what he loved, being a soldier.
"He was proud of what he did," Erik said as he spoke about his brother being drawn to the military as they grew up in San Diego's North County communities of Encinitas and La Costa.
Erik said Casey was dedicated to the army and his mission.
"He never felt once that what he did wasn't achieving something better for all of us," Erik said.
Casey was only three weeks into his latest tour in Afghanistan when he was killed. It was an assignment he could have skipped, due to a back injury, but, Erik said, he wouldn't even consider not going. Casey wanted to be there for the younger soldiers.
"He felt that -- 34-year-old veteran with three tours -- it was his duty to go," Erik said. “He actually enjoyed his tours. It's sad to think that now."
Casey lived in Colorado Springs with his wife, Celestine, and their two children.
Erik Grochowiak and his mother, Barbara, drove nearly nonstop to be by the family's side after Casey died. His father, Edward, traveled to Dover Air Force base in Delaware with his daughter-in-law to receive the flag-draped coffin carrying Casey's body on Wednesday.
The family is planning a ceremony at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. Erik said the family wants to say a final farewell to his brother on Sept. 11.
"So we can think of that date and remember Casey and what he died for, what all of us just take for granted," Erik said.